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D.C. to give pedestrians and cyclists more time to cross the street at 93 intersections

The move is meant to make roads safer

Crosswalks near Nats Park in the Navy Yard–Ballpark area
BrianPIrwin/Shutterstock

On Friday, the District will reset traffic signals at 93 intersections in Navy Yard, Southwest, and neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River to give pedestrians and cyclists more time to cross the street. The move is part of D.C.’s Vision Zero initiative to reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries, with the goal of fully eliminating them through various means by 2024.

Using crash data, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) determined that the 93 intersections were particularly prone to crashes as compared to the other 134 intersections in heavily trafficked areas of Wards 6, 7, and 8. Workers will retime signals to create “leading pedestrian intervals” in which pedestrians and cyclists will get a head start of a few seconds to cross the roads, relative to vehicles in adjacent street lanes. In this way, drivers planing to make turns will be more likely to see and yield to people in crosswalks. “This relatively low-cost treatment...has been shown to reduce pedestrian-vehicle collisions,” DDOT points out.

After the changes are made, more than half of the heavily trafficked areas in the three wards will have leading pedestrian intervals, according to the agency. Here is a map of the targets:

D.C. government

The District first established such intervals between 2003 and 2005, and DDOT now has 212 of them across the city. Cyclists are also allowed to advance with walk signals when there is a leading pedestrian interval, under D.C. law. The addition of 93 leading pedestrian intervals will raise their total number by roughly 44 percent, according to the figures DDOT provided.

After an uptick in traffic deaths in recent months, District officials have refocused the Vision Zero initiative to include planning to prohibit right turns on red at 100 priority intersections, build more protected bike lanes, and expand dedicated pick-up and drop-off zones for ride-hailing cars and commercial trucks. To date this year, 31 people have died in crashes in D.C.